"It's like Dropbox, but only for corporate passwords," Andrei Pyankov, CEO of Passwork, an Arkhangelsk-based company, briefly explains the essence of the product.
This conversation took place during the Startup Tour stage in the capital of Pomorye. Co-founders of the Company Ilya Garakh (CTO) and Andrei Pyankov just had a meeting with Finnish business angel Pekka Villakainen. They told Sk.ru about the unique history of the project and their plans for the future.
Ilya Garakh and Andrei Pyankov, co-founders of the Arkhangelsk-based company. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
The day before, the same story was told to the portal by Pekka Villakainen himself, who is the ideologist of the Startup Tour and adviser to the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Skolkovo Foundation.
This story begins in 2017 when the Startup Tour first came to Arkhangelsk. As the metaphor goes, varnished tale can't be round, and Pekka’s story begins literally like this: "I stood in line for the toilet. And then a young guy came up to me and started talking about his startup. The guy’s name was Ilya, and he was so convincing that I invested in that team. And I came up trumps: It was one of my most successful investments over the long haul."
The same story told by Ilya Garakh does not look so picturesque, but in general, repeats the story told by Mr. Villakainen. Their conversation took place in the lobby of the university, which was the venue for the Startup Tour. Ilya was invited as a speaker, but he was also able to listen to other speakers. In particular, he was impressed by the master class of an authoritative Finn, who told the audience that in the 21st century, the source of new jobs would not be giant industrial enterprises. Still, small companies that could be created in every city, and Arkhangelsk was no worse than any other cities in that sense.
Before the Start-up Tour in Arkhangelsk: Pekka Villakainen is preparing for his performance. On the table is a stack of "Without Fear" books, which will be awarded to the winners of the competition autographed by Villakainen, the Finnish business angel and author of the book. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
Ilya tried to discuss his idea with Pekka, but he was constantly busy, and they managed to talk at the very last moment when Pekka was about to leave the building.
Sunset over the Northern Dvina River. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
Pekka was really interested in the project and gave Ilya the contacts of his assistants.
There was some misunderstanding, said Ilya Garakh. It seems that his interlocutors in Moscow and Helsinki decided that the Arkhangelsk startuper is dreaming of how he could quickly get to the neighboring Nordic country. "If you are planning to move to Finland, call us," Ilya explained was the essence of the answer.
But then Pekka himself showed interest and sent me a letter: he wanted to know more about my idea. After that, the decision to invest was made within literally two weeks.
According to Pekka Villakainen, this case became a real success story, not only his success as a business angel or the success of young IT professionals from Arkhangelsk, who, after three years, have customers in 80 countries. First of all, this demonstrates the success of the Startup Tour, which was created precisely for this purpose–to help people everywhere turn their technological ideas into real projects.
Passwork is an example of the fact that international business can be created without leaving Arkhangelsk," says the adviser to the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Skolkovo Foundation. He himself admits that his Finnish soul exults in the capital of Pomorye when he sees this pure white snow, which is not present this winter in Helsinki.
The Business Center, where the Passwork's office is located, stands on the shores of the Northern Dvina River. In early February, the river is icebound. The low northern sun makes the snow-covered ice sparkle like a showcase in a jewelry store. Somewhere in the distance, snowmobiles heaved snow, dashingly jumping over the broken ice left by small icebreakers.
Ilya Garakh: "When you sell a product not on behalf of an individual entrepreneur from Arkhangelsk, but on behalf of a Finnish company, this is far from the same thing." Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
The Northern exotics make an indelible impression on every visitor, but Andrei Pyankov, as a native of Arkhangelsk, is less romantic. "The climate is severe, the environment is terrible, and Arkhangelsk itself ranks last in RBC’s management efficiency," he says. "However, it’s true that all this does not prevent us from doing business globally and selling our product to large domestic corporations, for example, VTB Bank, and foreign companies.”
Andrei is 31 years old. Ilya, who is also a native of Arkhangelsk, is four years older than his partner. He traveled extensively around Russia and did not consider Arkhangelsk an unfortunate place to live and work. The graduate of the Faculty of Mathematics of Northern (Arctic) Federal University (this university hosted the Startup Tour) talks about the problem that Passwork solves.
As a rule, corporate passwords are completely incomprehensible for company employees, since IT specialists invented them for IT specialists. Passwork is a password manager for businesses; it makes passwords user-friendly and very strong.
The solution is installed on the company’s server, where all data is safely stored, and employees can quickly find the passwords they need. The administrator manages user privileges and monitors all actions and changes.
Andrei Pyankov: Over the past three years, Passwork’s business has tripled each year. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
The service is available both in the cloud and as an out-of-the-box solution, and this has helped the Company attract customers in more than 80 countries.
This is the case today. Three years ago, the startup already existed and even sold its product. What has changed thanks to the Finnish investor?
"When you sell a product not on behalf of an individual entrepreneur from Arkhangelsk, but on behalf of a Finnish company, this is far from the same thing," said Ilya Garakh.
Andrei Pyankov: "This investment has contributed to the promotion of the company. Since then, Passwork’s business has tripled every year."
What is the ambition of IT specialists from Arkhangelsk? "We want to turn Passwork into a very big business," said Andrei. "And then sell it to a huge company."
"Then we will create something new. That's how we like it."